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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Are Heroes Born or Made? A Story of Courage

I was delighted to be quoted in this ABC News article on acts of heroism following the Boston marathon bombing. When people answer evil deeds with compassion and courage, our faith in human nature is restored. We gain mastery of our fear and recommit to the values of compassion and mutual responsibility that are the basis of a civilized society. The article references my Psychology Today blog post on The Six Attributes of Courage.

The article poses the age old question that is especially relevant in light of the events in Boston. Without a second thought, brave men and women rushed in to help the victims of the bombing - taking the risk that another bomb could detonate and hurt them. What makes a hero?  Is it a matter of "brave genes' or "doing what the situation calls for," or perhaps a bit of both?  The article argues that the essence of heroism is a commitment to 'something larger than oneself"  This could be a set of values and principles we hold dear, a national identity, or acts of love and compassion that transcend self-interest. 

Here's a link to the full article:

And to the blog post  that got their attention:

Here is a quote from the ABC News article:  

Dr. Melanie Greenberg, a psychologist who specializes in stress and overcoming trauma, said cultural and personal ethics play a role in courage.
"One of the key things about heroism is that it's not the absence of fear, but feeling fear and choosing to act anyway," she said. "Something is more important than fear and survival. It's certain values you have that drive your life and make it meaningful."
She was hesitant to describe cowardice: "Sometimes, you freeze like a deer in the headlights. That's the primitive lizard in us, when the social compassion switches off."
Greenberg, who blogged about the qualities of courage for Psychology Today, cited "empathy, kindness and compassion" as the motivators for heroism.
Training for emergencies gives responders courage, according to Greenberg.
Others draw it from "a sense community and compassion," she said. "The culture of being together, that you are brothers and doing it for your buddy -- that inspires heroism. The support group means more than the individual life."
Standing up for what is right, "following your heart, doing what the situation calls for," is another motivator for heroism.
"It brings out the best in people to stand up to terrorism and not let the bad guys win," said Greenberg. "You are part of something larger than yourself."

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